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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Jan 25, 2022

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Rav Arora came to public prominence in 2020 with a column for The New York Post provocatively titled “The Fallacy of White Privilege.” He suffered personal and professional blowback, but today the 20-year-old Canadian undergraduate has a semi-regular column in The New York Post, and is interviewed by the likes of Glenn Loury. Arora’s fearlessness in expressing his opinions on a wide range of topics, in particular politically controversial ones, combined with a dogged work ethic has earned him a wide platform, publishing in The New York PostThe Global and Mail and Quillette. He’s also already had guests on his podcast as prominent as Sam Harris. Not too shabby for someone who hasn’t even graduated university. But on this episode of the Unsupervised Learning podcast, Arora discusses a new passion, the intersection of psychedelics, therapy and mysticism. When he’s not writing about social and political topics, he is now exploring “science of mystical experience and psychedelics” on his new SubstackThe Noble Truths with Rav Arora.

Razib first lays his cards on the table and admits that he has no firsthand knowledge of psychedelics and no personal interest or understanding of mysticism. And yet, he acknowledges that discussion of drugs like psilocybin is pervasive across society. Rav disabuses Razib of the idea that psilocybin and other psychedelics are dangerous, a case where Generation-Z has to enlighten a member of Generation-X who was inculcated with the “Just Say No To Drugs” message of the 1980’s. For Rav, psychedelics are a means to an end, a tool like any other.

But much of the discussion goes deeper into issues of metaphysics. What is spirituality, and what does Rav say to people who express no interest in mysticism or religion? Rav contends that the utility of psychedelics for spirituality doesn’t have anything to do with religion, making the point that the atheist Sam Harris has long been intrigued by the potential of psychedelics in bringing about heightened mental awareness. Though Razib remains skeptical, it’s clear that this decade will see more discussion of this topic, and Rav also notes the extensive research in psychotherapy showing that psychedelics are proving effective in treating mental illness.

The substack is The Noble Truths with Rav Arora, where he posts essays on the science of mystical experience and psychedelics. Paid subscribers can also get Rav’s post-psychedelic trip audio recordings and FaceTime podcasts with ‘IDW’ figures.