Entrepreneurs have turned to psychedelics and other illicit drugs for years in order to “hack the brain” en route to success.
Steve Jobs dropped acid. Richard Branson smokes marijuana. Author and investor Tim Ferriss loves ayahuasca, a psychedelic that induces mind-boggling hallucinations and is illegal in the US.
Bill Gates, a notoriously private and straight-edged billionaire, is also among the godfathers of tech who dabbled in psychedelics.
In 1994, Gates gave an interview to Playboy Magazine, in which the computer mogul opened up — a little — about his LSD use in his “errant youth.” While he never expressly admits to dropping acid in his 20s, Gates implies as much in the interview.
Here’s an excerpt:
Playboy: Ever take LSD?
Gates: My errant youth ended a long time ago.
Playboy: What does that mean?
Gates: That means there were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently.
The interviewer pressed on, asking Gates about a time when he allegedly was under the influence of LSD. (It’s unclear how this anecdote became known.)
Playboy: One LSD story involved you staring at a table and thinking the corner was going to plunge into your eye.
Playboy: Ah, a glimmer of recognition.
Gates: That was on the other side of that boundary.
The admission — if you can call it that — is surprising, considering Gates has never been known to trip on peyote in the desert or hold outrageous parties. Steve Jobs once said Gates lacked imagination and could have benefited if “he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger,” according to Jobs’ biography.
The Microsoft cofounder told Playboy his errant phase ended “a long time ago.”
“The young mind can deal with certain kinds of gooping around” — a slang term for getting high, according to Urban Dictionary — “that I don’t think at this age I could. I don’t think you’re as capable of handling lack of sleep or whatever challenges you throw at your body as you get older. However, I never missed a day of work.”