Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

The Altered Mind: Psychedelics and the Ethics of Mind Enhancement

Rick Doblin

Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies

March 28, 2018, 4:00pm-6:00pm
Allison Dining Room, 5th Floor, Taubman Building, Harvard Kennedy School


Psychedelics are again in the headlines, with new research pointing to their potential benefits for treating PTSD, depression, addiction and other psychiatric conditions. What is at stake in the so called ‘renaissance’ of psychedelic research socially, culturally, politically, and ethically? What sociocultural trends and forces enabled this renaissance and how does the mainstreaming of such research intersect with the countercultural values long associated with psychedelic substances? What broad promises do these substances hold for society and what dangers should we be aware of? In particular, what ethical challenges are raised by psychochemical interventions into self and society, and how should these be addressed in view of tensions between the ongoing war on drugs and the simultaneous and growing acceptance of technologies aimed at cognitive and emotional enhancement? Watch the video here


Daniel Wikler

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Nicolas Langlitz

The New School for Social Research

Ido Hartogsohn

Harvard Kennedy School

Moderated by

Sheila Jasanoff

Harvard Kennedy School

About the speaker

Rick Doblin, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He received his doctorate in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he wrote his dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana and his Master's thesis on a survey of oncologists about smoked marijuana vs. the oral THC pill in nausea control for cancer patients. His undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida was a 25-year follow-up to the classic Good Friday Experiment, which evaluated the potential of psychedelic drugs to catalyze religious experiences. He also conducted a thirty-four year follow-up study to Timothy Leary's Concord Prison Experiment. Rick studied with Dr. Stanislav Grof and was among the first to be certified as a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner. His professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, primarily as prescription medicines but also for personal growth for otherwise healthy people, and eventually to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist. He founded MAPS in 1986, and currently resides in Boston with his wife and empty rooms from three children who are all in college.