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Sex, Drugs & Silicon Valley

Aired February 7, 2015 - 20:30   ET




LAURIE SEGALL, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Monogamy is overrated. Illegal drugs can make you smarter. And sex, it can be hacked.

Experimentation is the foundation of Silicon Valley and now it's going from your gadgets to your personal life. Pushing boundaries even farther, challenging society's most personal values, the way we love, applying data to dating and using drugs to enhance mental performance. Technology has lifted the curtain on taboos and sparked a cultural revolution. If the curl wave of disruption is changing the way the world works, could the next wave change how the world thinks?

I'm Laurie Segall, I cover tech for CNN. SEX, DRUGS, AND SILICON VALLEY takes a look at the weird, the disruptive and how the innovators' next target could be your life.

Harder, better, faster, stronger it's not just a Kanye West song it's also an ethos in the tech world.

DAVE ASPREY, BULLETPROOF CEO: (Inaudible), rasotan, methylcobalamin, zeaxanthin, GABAwave, I'll warn you, it doesn't taste great but it's worth it.

SEGALL: You take all of these, put them in your hand and then you just take them, is that safe to do?

ASPREY: It's totally safe to do that. I look back to my college days where we had beer bongs it's exactly the same technique. I have some of most expensive "P" on the planet.

SEGALL: I know what you're thinking. This dude seems crazy. Honestly, I thought so too. His name is Dave Asprey. He's the CEO of Bulletproof. He's an entrepreneur and he's also known for experimenting with drugs, the smart ones.

ASPREY: What I'm trying to do is ageless quickly but most importantly I'm working on having the most energy and having a brain that works really, really well because when I weigh 300 pounds I was having really bad prompts with brain fog. As an entrepreneur, that's a problem.

SEGALL: That combo he's downing, that's what's referred to as a stack, a collection of smart drugs also called "neutropics". They're aimed at enhancing your brain. They could be anything from a stimulant like coffee to a prescription drug.

Neotropics. Smart drugs. Whatever you choose to call them, users say they enhance your brain and, subsequently, your body's performance. They become a thing in the tech world in part because of the high level of competition, in part because of the long hours. But it all boils down to this way of life called "biohacking", this idea that we can control our own biology and we can program it to maximize results.

For days, maximizing results meant escaping more than 800 miles north of San Francisco in British Columbia.

The whole idea in Silicon Valley in San Francisco and with entrepreneurs is this idea of hacking the status quo, not taking things at face value. Is this whole place in Canada is this kind of your way of doing that?

ASPREY: Your body will respond to the environment in its end. When I look at the way my meat (ph), my biology, the operating system of my body, responds to the environment around me, I am more resilient, I thrive more when I have used like this.

SEGALL: Dave says smart drugs have saved his life. But it's hard to know how safe they are. People using these enhancers can suffer from side effects, headaches, insomnia, nausea and many haven't been studied.

TIM FERRISS, SILICON VALLEY INVESTOR: I've used every class of drug you can imagine. I've used the -- either the medathanols of the world, the rasotans, hydrogen (inaudible).

SEGALL: Tim's body is essentially a living lab. He also practiced his biohacking. Anything that can control or improve any part of his body, he'll try. There are no limits.

Here in Silicon Valley, you are your own athlete, you're only as good as your mind. Smart drugs are a way that entrepreneurs are helping achieve that marathon.

FERRISS: Let's just say you're a 24-year-old startup co-founder who just got a seed around the funding from a big venture capitalist just like an Olympic athlete who's willing to do almost anything, even if it shortens their life by five years to get a gold medal, you're going to think about what pills and potions you can take because the difference between making a million dollars and making a billion dollars is right here.

SEGALL: Let's look in 10, 15 years, if you go have some horrific side effects, will have been worth it?

ASPREY: I've had some side effects. When I was developing a bolder diet, I tried an extreme form of kinetosis and it gave me some food allergies I didn't have before and I'm still working to reverse those.

If I do find out down the road that there are some side effects, will have been worth it? Yes, it'll been worth it. The quality of my life everyday is so much higher now than it was 10 years ago that it's priceless.

SEGALL: Coming up, meet the man who went on an acid trip with Steve Jobs.




SEGALL: The heart of success in Silicon Valley is dependent on flexing one of the biggest muscles you have, your brain. How well can you focus? Can you stay up all night and code? But the other part of success is creativity, the ability to think outside the box, to have the breakthrough moment, a moment that could turn your millions into billions.

FERRISS: The billionaires I know, almost without exception, who's (inaudible) on a regular basis.

SEGALL: Tim Ferriss is a Valley insider, he's an entrepreneur and he wrote the book about optimizing your time. His lifestyle insights have developed a cult-like following.

The creativity comes from drugs?

FERRISS: The people I know who are trying to be very disruptive and look at the problems in the world that exist and ask completely new questions. They might look at something that exist for hundreds of years and see something completely different.

KEVIN HERBERT, SILICON VALLEY ENGINEER: I was actually at a science fiction convention with a bunch of friends and the Grateful Dead Truckin' came on the radio and my girlfriend and I at the time sort of had this revelation of, "Oh, that's why people listen to the Grateful Dead on LSD."

SEGALL: It was the 4th of July in 1980 when Kevin Herbert first tried psychedelics. He's been using LSD for decades. Kevin currently works as an engineer for Cisco.

SEGALL: How high would you say is the premium on creativity in Silicon Valley?

HERBERT: I mean everything we do is entirely creative. Everything requires creative solutions and LSD kind of fits in to that because you've got the sort of magical breakthrough.

I would be at Grateful Dead show high in LSD during drums and then something about my work would just come to me. I had been working on a problem for over a month, doing all these hardcore debugging and I took LSD, I just realized, "Wait. The problem is in hardware. It's not a software problem at all." I come back to, you know, to work the next day, tell my manager I had an epiphany, he laughed and says, "Great show".

SEGALL: And there's actually scientific proof that LSD could do just that. Once study funded by the U.S. government in the '60s took up group of scientists and set them out to solve 48 different physics, math and architectural problems, problems that the scientists themselves had been unable to solve.

Each scientist was guided through a psychedelic trip. At the end of which, 44 of the 48 problems had found solution.

DANIEL KOTTKE, SILICON VALLEY EARLY APPLE EMPLOYEE: I moved here to work in the Apple garage building Apple 1s. That was 1976.

SEGALL: That's Daniel Kottke, one of Apple's first employees. And before we all knew Steve Jobs as the creator as one of the most successful companies in the world, Daniel knew him as the guy he used to trip with in college.

You said that Steve had said that LSD was kind of one of the best things he ever did. Why was that?

KOTTKE: It expands your consciousness. It could've been mushrooms. It could've been POD. It could've been any number of other things.

Conversely, Steve was never really interested in smoking pot. That did not expand consciousness.

SEGALL: Today, psychedelic researches having a renaissance, people in the industry say there are more studies now than there have been in decades.

FERRISS: We don't know as much about the human brain or body as we think we do. I mean we're absolutely medieval. I think we're going to look back in 10 years at our behavior now and it's going to look like blood-letting in the dark ages.

SEGALL: When we come back, Silicon Valley's hidden swinger scene.




SEGALL: It's a story many of us have heard as a child. You grow up, you fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. Here's the thing about love. It's a feeling. It's hard to define. And here's a thing about that story. It's not always true.

For some, the definition of love, of relationships is evolving. Here, is a different story.