Summary: The Drum reports on five new trends of 2016, including research into psychedelic psychiatry with the use of MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin as adjuncts to psychotherapy. “Psychedelic drugs including MDMA, LSD and Psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms are going to be the next set of drugs after marijuana to be destigmatized and potentially legalized,” says Barbara Herman of The Drum.
Originally appearing here.
Sparks & honey tracks cultural trends by drawing on a plethora of data sources, scouts and cultural strategists in our New York and Los Angeles offices.
In December, we covered hundreds of signals and featured the best in our daily app N2 (now, next). Here are the hottest trends we curated from N2 exclusively for The Drum.
1. Baby, you can drive my car
It’s inevitable we’ll all be on the road with autonomous or driverless cars. The question is, will it be in a few years, as car execs predict, or at least 10 years as more sober scientists surmise? Even rosy predictions for autonomous cars factor in a human driver overriding decision-making when things get too complex for the robot driver. This tension between human and Artificial Intelligence highlights the unique cultural moment we’re in: who’s in the driver’s seat, people or robots?
The New Yorker recently featured a cartoon about driverless carsthat generated lots of buzz on Imgur and Reddit. It imagines a future in which a cop pulls over a driver, and asks: “Does your car have any idea why my car pulled it over?” Commenters voiced anxiety and imagined benefits of the driverless car.
Questions about responsibility — tickets and insurance — abounded, as did questions about a future generation that possibly never learns how to drive. For a US culture built on fantasies of the open road and the freedom, individuality and self-determination that entails, will the driverless car shift how we think about ourselves if a robot, essentially, is driving us around?
GM has partnered with on-demand app-based service Lyft to the tune of $500m. Among their big plans is to build a fleet of autonomous aka self-driving cars. They’re also helping Lyft drivers by letting them rent cars instead of requiring that they use their own.
Both of these initiatives appear to cancel themselves out. On the one hand, Lyft drivers’ lives are being made easier in the meantime, but self-driving cars will probably eliminate their jobs when they arrive. It’s said that 40 per cent of jobs are in transportation, but with the acceleration of the driverless car — what’s going to happen to these jobs?
The California DMV is gearing up for a future of driverless cars by drafting regulations that will force human beings behind the wheel regardless. The driver will have to get a special state-issued license indicating they’ve undergone training from car companies on how to use autonomous vehicles. This is a problem for Google and its design, since it removed the steering wheel from its prototype, and research and testing having shown that it’s safer to give cars full control anyway. It’s an interesting tension space as we move from a society of drivers to a society of passengers.
2. Bacon of the Sea
As concern for the planet kicks into high gear, the need for sustainable food sources increases. Innovation is going to be necessary in the food space, and many have risen to the occasion — or in the case of new It Food algae — sunken to it.
If healthy, vegan bacon sounds like an unrealistic dream, the superfood Dulse, a new strain of red algae that tastes like bacon when fried, means that dreams do come true. This bacon of the sea isn’t just loaded with nutrients, it’s bursting with umami, the savory quality that makes foods like meat, cheese, and tomato sauce taste delicious. At the moment, Dulse is difficult to harvest and costs up to $90 a pound, but growers are figuring out how to cultivate it in the lab.
The world’s first algae oil, Thrive, hit the US market in October. Thrive has multiple things going for it: it tastes good, has a high smoke point, low levels of saturated fat, and because it can be grown in tanks, its agricultural footprint is light.
You are what you eat. Dominique Barnes and Michelle Wolf, two innovators out of the Bay Area, with the help of biotech incubator IndieBio, are hoping to make that come true by creating faux shrimp made from the algae that real shrimp eat. Although vegetarian faux shrimp is already on the market, it doesn’t have the low fat and high protein that real shrimp does. Barns and Wolf hope this plant-based shrimp will approximate the taste, texture, and nutritional value of the real thing. With overfishing predicted to create “fishless oceans” by 2050 and real shrimp often pumped up with antibiotics and toxins, faux shrimp sounds real great.
3. Real men do wear pink
Caitlyn Jenner helped put transgender identities on the mainstream map, but what’s percolating in culture is perhaps something even more radical: the blurring and erasure of gender as a binary category, which we outlined in our report, The New Language of Gender. Ideas about what masculinity is tend to be more rigid than femininity, so the following cultural signs that masculinity is being redefined demonstrates that gender as we know it is on its way out.
Since the 1970s, New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham has been doing a close-reading of street fashion in New York City. He recently declared a menswear fashion revolution. Men are increasingly expressing themselves in novel ways in clothes, wearing genderbending outfits like pink coats, he said, adding, “I have now seen the third sex. It’s not male, it’s not female. It’s something else.”
As if on cue, to prove Cunningham’s point, Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere recently announced on Instagram that teen celeb Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Smith, would be featured in a womenswear ad campaign photographed by the legendary Bruce Weber wearing things like leather skirts and flowy tops. Smith has proven to be a free spirit in the sartorial department, challenging the taboo against boys wearing skirts by, well, wearing skirts. Gen Z: Generation Gender Fluid?
You know the times, they are a-changin’, when Axe rethinks its brand promise. Gone is the vision of a handsome man being chased by women after he sprays on Axe. The new brand promise? To enhance what men have that’s already appealing, whether it’s a distinctive nose, a love for kittens and facial hair — or the love of Vogueing at drag balls in high heels and makeup. An Axe spokesman told Adweek that the ad was a response to the cultural shift in how we view masculinity, and that men were increasingly rejecting rigid stereotypes.
4. Psychedelic psychiatry
Psychedelic drugs including MDMA, LSD and Psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms are going to be the next set of drugs after marijuana to be destigmatized and potentially legalized. This is largely because irrefutable research going back to the 1950s has shown that these drugs have a significant positive effect on those with depression, anxiety, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Psychedelics are able to disintegrate entrenched and destructive ways of thinking in people who have depression, anxiety and PTSD. And brain imaging has shown that in the brains of PTSD patients who took MDMA, their primitive fear center responses shrunk while their rational thought processes overrode them — the opposite of how their brains normally function.
Silicon Valley is known for valuing “thinking outside the box” and “disruption,” but one innovation occurring i
n the workplace is straight out of the 1960s: taking microdoses of LSD to enhance creativity and productivity.
A typical dose of LSD — enough to make a person hallucinate or trip — is about 10 micrograms of LSD. A microdose is about 1/10 of that dose. Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, claims people who microdose feel more energetic and insightful but don’t necessarily see the face of God inside their water coolers.
Just as with marijuana, we will continue to see the destigmatization of psychedelics if their proven health or cognitive benefits outweigh the prejudice against them. Once sustained and irrefutable scientific data come out on these maligned drugs, they will become mainstream, if not for your average person, then definitely in a controlled, therapeutic setting by licensed professionals.
5. Advanced style
It’s not news that we live in an ageist society and that women in particular are made to feel invisible after their 20s. But we’re seeing more pushback from women themselves, as well as an increase in 50-plus celebrity spokespeople and models. Like men, women of a certain age can also be “distinguished”.
For 50 years, the Pirelli tire company has released an annual calendar of scantily-clad and naked women that it gave out to 20,000 “exclusive” groups of musicians, politicians and royalty. But something different happened this year: photographer Annie Leibowitz called up accomplished women of all ages, including rocker Patti Smith, 69 — and she asked them to pose in their clothes. As structural sexism continues to be analyzed and redressed, symbolic sexism like the old Pirelli calendar will seem downright anachronistic.
At age 69, Susan Sarandon has been named L’Oréal Paris’s new brand ambassador, and will be the face of Age Perfect skincare and hair color. Sarandon is beautiful, of course, but she represents values outside of looks, and as a political activist she’s a symbol of strength and conviction.“I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less and less an issue and what you are is the point,” Sarandon has said.
Carrie Fisher was 27 when she played Leia Organa in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” And her bronze “slave” bikini has had folks slavering ever since. But as a 59-year-old reprising her role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” she was not prepared for criticism about her appearance. “Please stop debating whether or not I aged well,” she wrote on Twitter, in response to trolls. “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.”