Earlier this week, we witnessed something profound: a new paradigm technology empowering a new paradigm of psychedelic research and treatments. On January 13th, an anonymous Bitcoin multi-millionaire announced on Reddit that they were donating the majority of their profits to charitable causes through the Pineapple Fund, pledging to give over $80 million in Bitcoin away. One of the first publicly announced recipients of this philanthropy was the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that is at the forefront of funding psychedelic research and seeking legalization for psychedelic medications. While this is great news for MAPS and their efforts to complete Phase 3 FDA trials for MDMA, and it is a great example of positive fruits coming from the cryptocurrency field, there is still a long journey ahead for these two fields to achieve their long-term goals of mainstream adoption and acceptance.
Rise of the Blockchain
The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has been emerging into public consciousness more and more over recent years, and made big waves this month as its price surged and took the financial world by storm. While mainstream media, business, and financial institutions tend to cast doubt and confusion when it comes to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, many bright minds and early adopters have made a fortune by supporting and buying into Bitcoin and other crypto coins over the years. With immense profits from rising (albeit highly fluctuating) cryptocurrency prices, the Pineapple Fund could very well represent a new breed of crypto-philanthropists who are emerging with more money than they know what to do with and choosing to give much of it away. If the cryptocurrency market continues to see an exponential growth trend, we may be witnessing one of the first examples of this new kind of charitable giving that is driven by the personal passions of new-paradigm innovators, rather than by established norms and highly bureaucratic institutions.
One of the things that makes this moment so fascinating is that in 10-15 years, one could feasibly predict that both decentralized currencies and psychedelic medicines will be the new status quo, rather than the disruptive outliers they are today. As MAPS said in their own statement on Reddit after receiving the donation, they were early adopters of Bitcoin and started accepting cryptocurrency donations as far back as 2013. Now, a generous soul from the crypto field is being an early supporter of psychedelic research, and these two emerging fields are mutually reinforcing each other. Yet, as exciting as this is, it is also important to speak a word of caution, and balance out excitement and optimism with the long road ahead.
A Delicate Time
While the long-term promises of blockchain technology and psychedelic therapy are completely game-changing, it is also important to remember that a beginning is a very delicate time. New technologies and medicines are rightly exposed to high levels of scrutiny to ensure that promises can be tested and backed up by real results. In the crypto field as well as in the realm of psychedelic research, this real-world testing has been overwhelmingly positive, with cryptocurrencies proving their security, speed, and potential for decentralized applications, while psychedelics are showing their incredible rates of success, long-term benefits, and general safety.
However, even with all the proof-of-work in the world, these emerging technologies and medicines are also exposed to other factors that make them fragile at a time like this. In an emerging field with relatively few players and little understanding by the general public, wayward actors in this small space could cause undue harm to the field by being reckless, greedy, uninformed, or malicious. In the field of psychedelics, this could look like rogue shamans or retreat centers providing psychedelics in a less-than-safe way with intentions that are mostly profit-driven. In the crypto world, it could look like insider trading, market manipulation, and the spreading of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) in order to confuse newcomers and sabotage markets that have yet to be regulated or achieve the resilience of widespread adoption.
What matters most in the long term is where the greater trend is. Do psychedelics have the ability to revolutionize the field of mental health and addiction treatment? The data shows us that the answer is unequivocally yes. Do cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have the potential to revolutionize the financial world and the exchange of data across the internet? The answer there is also clearly “yes.” When these technologies and medicines will break through into the mainstream and become the new status quo, and how many bumps will happen along the way, nobody knows. Yet we can be certain that in the long run, the fundamental efficacy and usefulness of these emerging fields will win out, and we may see these new fields helping each other out more and more along the way, empowering each other to bring forth positive change into the world.
UPDATE: Crypto-philanthropy strikes twice more! According to the MAPS newsletter released just yesterday, two other anonymous donors made substantial cryptocurrency donations: “After announcing the Pineapple Fund’s gift, on December 18, MAPS received a second Bitcoin donation of 51.54 BTC from another anonymous donor. On December 20, MAPS received 88,000 LUN tokens worth over $740,000 from yet another anonymous donor.”